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Showcasing Sustainability

Showcasing Sustainability

by Megan Frank

Habitat Seattle-King County’s “House of the Immediate Future” is home to adaptable, affordable, efficient design and construction.

In 1962, the Seattle World’s Fair introduced “The House of the Future,” filled with gadgets and gizmos reminiscent of the Jetsons. The world is a bit different today, and so is the “House of the Immediate Future,” recently built as part of Next 50, a Seattle celebration of the 1962 World’s Fair and the city’s next 50 years.

Focused on sustainability, efficiency and affordability, the House of the Immediate Future uses recycled and reclaimed materials throughout and incorporates design and construction techniques that minimize energy consumption and waste. The House of the Immediate Future is also a Habitat home.

Next 50 committee member Ron Rochon, principal architect at house designer the Miller Hull Partnership, suggested bringing Habitat for Humanity of Seattle-King County into the process. He calls Habitat an obvious choice for a project that has helped raise awareness of efficient and cost-effective housing options. Some of the things that Habitat incorporates into every build, he says, benefited the Miller Hull design: “affordability, size, easy-to-use mechanical systems, replicable design strategies and supportive of a volunteer labor model.”

Building on the affiliate’s wealth of experience with water conservation, energy efficiency, healthy indoor environments and low-impact development, Habitat Seattle-King County volunteers constructed the house on the grounds of the Seattle Center, where it remained for the six-month celebration. The house was deconstructed in November and will be moved in March to its permanent site, where a Habitat family will soon take up residence.

“The modern aesthetic and the advanced green building features really amazed a lot of people and changed their view of what affordable housing can — and should — be,” says Marty Kooistra, Habitat Seattle-King County’s senior advisor for strategy and advocacy. “We like to say that ‘affordable doesn’t mean cheap.’ That was abundantly demonstrated through this beautiful and sustainable home.”

House and wet core Images Courtesy Miller Hull Partnership

Features of the House of the Immediate Future include:

A solar array provides energy for the home, making it a net-zero house.

Double-stud construction of exterior walls makes the insulation of the home very tight, greatly reducing loss of heat or cool through the walls. A rainscreen within the wall helps keep moisture out and ventilates the walls to prevent growth of mold and mildew.

Radiant heating in the floors and extra insulation in the roof allow the house to use very little energy to maintain warmth.

Pre-fabricated “wet cores” save time and space. All of the electrical and plumbing was installed into wall panels off-site by professionals. The panels were delivered to the site, ready and easy for volunteers to assemble. The kitchen, bathroom and mechanical room share walls and form the core of the home. This makes good use of the electrical and plumbing professionals’ time, as well as that of volunteers putting the core into place and building the walls around it.

A cistern and system for harvesting rainwater mean the house can provide all the water the homeowners need.

Interior walls were built in unitized panels, allowing the space to be used however the family needs. As the homeowner’s needs change, so can the interior of the home. Though the house was built as a single-family home, the design is easily adaptable into a multi-family dwelling.

In addition to building the House of the Immediate Future for the celebration, Habitat Seattle-King County also built a “World House” with handmade concrete interlocking blocks to demonstrate Habitat’s work in other countries.

“A primary focus was public engagement, both through education about sustainable communities and housing and through hands-on block making and construction,” says Kooistra. “Including the World House gave us a wonderful opportunity to promote awareness of the durable, healthy homes that Habitat for Humanity builds around the world.”